HOSTAGES: Executive Producers Jeffrey Nachmanoff and Rick Eid on Crafting a Satisfying Season 1 Arc | Give Me My Remote

HOSTAGES: Executive Producers Jeffrey Nachmanoff and Rick Eid on Crafting a Satisfying Season 1 Arc

September 22, 2013 by  

CBS is trying something a little bit different this television season: HOSTAGES, a 15-episode serialized drama starring Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott, about a surgeon who is taken hostage with her family…right before she was scheduled to operate on the President of the United States. In theory, this is a show you might expect to see on a cable network, not CBS, which is known more for its procedural offerings.

To get a little bit of intel on how the show might work — and what’s to come — I spoke with HOSTAGES executive producers Jeffrey Nachmanoff and Rick Eid…

There’s been so much said about this series having a 15-episode-a-year format, and how good this could be for dramas on network television if more serialized shows followed what HOSTAGES and Fox’s THE FOLLOWING are doing with condensed seasons. Does that add a layer of pressure for you guys are you’re trying to craft this first season, given the network isn’t really known for this type of show?
Rick Eid: It’s not really pressure, it’s a relief. What we’re offering audiences, like [HOSTAGES executive producer] Jonathan [Littleman has] said, is the first book in hopefully a series of mystery novels. The audience can come and watch, [and] we’re going to resolve season 1. Learning from a show like THE KILLING, which is really compelling, but had a frustrating experience for viewers that [the central mystery] wasn’t resolved [in season 1]. The beauty of watching other shows go first is you watch what they did, and what you want to emulate and what you want to do differently. We’re going to give an audience a satisfying arc for the first 15, and depending on where that ends, that will propel us into season 2.

How far into the show have you planned at this point? For instance, the sizzle reel that CBS showed at the Upfronts (which has since been leaked) spoiled things that I wouldn’t have expected to start to develop until considerably later in the show’s first season…
Jeffrey Nachmanoff: The sizzle reel is a sizzle reel and the series is a series. Some things may or may not be in there. We’ll do what makes sense. Some of the things that have been promised in the sizzle reel haven’t [played out].
RE: Also, spoiler is a bit of misnomer, because I’ve had this discussion: when you make a movie, and you see the trailer, of course it gives away all the best parts. If it’s a comedy, they put all the best jokes in. Does that make of it less of an enjoyable experience to see the movie? For some people, they’re just waiting for that moment when the character says the line they saw in the trailer. Hopefully, it doesn’t diminish the experience, it just gives anticipation. I think the reveals will be great; it’s a powerful show. Hopefully you’ll fall in love with these characters.

The cast you have is also absolutely incredible. Is there anything you find yourself doing or writing for them that you might not have done had these guys not taken the roles?
JN: It makes the job easier, because you know they’re going to bring something to it! You don’t have to overwrite it, you can underwrite it, because you know they’re talented and they can do a lot with it.
RE: The great thing about cinema is a lot can be told with images and not just words. The downfall of some television, when you don’t have actors with the caliber we have, is you feel the need to over-explain. I think when you have strong actors, everyone from the producers to the network have a lot more confidence that you can have non-verbal scenes. And frankly, that makes for a better quality entertainment; thanks to a look, you can say three words instead of three sentences.

Absolutely. What has been the biggest surprise of crafting season 1 so far?
JN: How much story there is. I was very anxious and I grabbed on to Rick like a lifeline as soon as he came on board and I said, “Help, how are we going to do a series?” And what’s fascinating is we started talking about it, and before we knew it, we had pages and pages of story ideas, many of which we’re going to toss out because we don’t have space or need for them. That’s been the good news: there’s actually a lot more story in the show than I thought there was.

Always a good position to find yourself in. Obviously over the course of the season, the show will be raising a bunch of questions/mysteries — and clearly you’re noted THE KILLING didn’t resolve its central premise in the first season — but do you feel like you’ll answer/resolve all of the questions that are brought up in the pilot by the time the first season concludes? Or do you feel it might be a situation where you resolve some of the big things and leave some of the smaller issues that were brought up in the pilot unresolved until some TBD point?
RE: I think we’ll answer the overarching mystery that was promised in the pilot.
JN: And then we’ll ask new questions.
RE: You may solve one problem and that brings up another. That’s how we’re looking at it. There are consequences to the solution.
JN: Just like [you’ll see] in the pilot. [Collette’s character] did [one thing] and now what’s the impact of that [action]? That became our story engine for 1×02. We think of this as a two-hander. This is a cat and mouse [game] between Dylan and Toni, and they are pretty well matched.

Beyond who we meet in the pilot, are there any other characters you’re looking to bring on in season 1?
JN: We’re looking to expand the conspiracy, so we’ll have new characters coming in there, but it’s hard to talk about it now.
RE: We know that’ll be a fun place to build out stories [later in the season].

HOSTAGES premieres Monday, September 23rd at 10 PM on CBS.

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